Last week I introduced many of you to my ever changing world. This week I am going to continue my story as I talk about what I did as a teacher and gamer to help create change – that would eventually dribble into my student’s (and others) lives.
As I mentioned last week, I started to get involved with radio around the time I got into the college of education. Radio had always been a passion of mine. I recall standing up and asking in a question during a Grade 9 Career Fair, “When are you going to play music other than Country around here?” to be told “Rock music will never come to this area on radio.” I got fueled and fired by this at a young age and the internet had all the answers to my prayers and more as I grew up.
My dream of being part of radio became a reality in a weird way that involved video gaming. I was running around randomly adventuring in the video game “Guild Wars”, when I stumbled upon a group that were interacting in a very odd way in an MMO. They were being delightfully engaging, positive and seemed to have formed an inner community within the community already existing in my “MMO world”. I stopped, I interacted and I became addicted to it. So much that it wasn’t even a few weeks later that I wanted to help be part of this team. The only roadblock at this point was my terribly awful internet connection that I had in the middle of rural Saskatchewan.
I didn’t let this roadblock stop me as I signed on to work on production. I dabbled in making introductions for hosts, advertisements and soon enough was on a dual ran show. However, as I continued down this road the common negativity of the internet was soon upon me and I had to walk away from this group in 2009. I was distraught. I had created a connection with a large group of people from all over the world. They interacted with me on a level that I definitely did not have among my friends and co-workers. They understood my nerdy quotes and my thrill for music. We were on the same level. Many of the people that listened to my regular radio show ( that since 2007 had moved on to be a solo show) begged me not to leave the radio/video gaming community behind.
Well, this is where I definitely started to make an impact on what I now come to know as my digital footprint and my evolving citizenship in a digital world. On my drive home from work one day, the song “What about now?” by Daughtry was playing on the radio and all I could think about in the jumble of my day was – Haiti, Making a Difference, Impact on my students, Radio, Gaming and Grading. You know the typical teacher/gamer thoughts right? ( ha.) I raced into my house and immediately started speaking to some of my closest friends in a Skype call. “What about THIS , how about THAT – could we DO IT?” What was THIS and THAT you ask? I soon got told to slow down a bit as what was spewing out of my mouth was a radio station with a twist. A central hub for video gamers to make an impact globally by creating change together online. “Gamer’s Giving Back” “What do you think guys? Do you think it would work? Do you think others would hop on board and want to create change too?” I owe my good friend Matthew Richey for saying, “Hey, I started you a Facebook Page – you are going to do this.”
That was when the idea became reality – no turning back. You see being a video gamer, allowed me to interact with so many people on so many different levels that I didn’t realize that on that very Skype call I had , a web designer, 2 other people with Dj/Radio experience and a graphics designer as well. The website, radio stream and a team of young radio hosts started on their mission to create change. Now- at this point some of you might say – wait, weren’t you teaching that whole time? YES! That is the crazy part! I was so driven that my attitude in the classroom began to change. I was happier, driven and my students began to benefit from what was unfolding and of course I included them ( You will hear more about THAT next week)
When I speak to students about brainstorming I relate back to the crazy brainstorming between the 6 people that helped me get the Gaming World Entertainment Network ( GW-EN) and Gamer’s Giving Back ( GGB) off the ground. We each took a part and went with it. Did some days fail?- OH YES! But, were they mainly positive? – you better believe it! We definitely had a steep learning curb of , domains, copyright, royalties, html code, graphics and social media. GW-EN and GGB had a complete makeover since the official launch in 2010. The one thing we have always stayed loyal to, was making a difference.
Now let’s rewind back to the beginning. Did you say Haiti? As many of you know, there was a lot of destruction in Haiti and I was determined to help in my own way. So where does video gaming come into this? Here is where I point out to you that a vast majority of people ranging from ages 12-65 ( younger and older even) are online in MMOs all over the world, daily, together in 1 instance. What if you were online, in the gaming format, providing an entertainment side, but also including some positive aspects of giving back to society by just playing the video games you love. Changing the topics of say chat from ” You suck Noob ” to ” Hey, did you hear about that fundraiser that was happening for Haiti?” Arenanet, the company that created Guild Wars, sat up and joined in.
Our first event was getting people ingame to change their armor to red to support those in Haiti. A small thing, but it raised awareness online in a global setting and raised over $1000. Nice start for a group of people with an idea of positive change right? We went on to create other events like the Toga Party for MS and Pink Day in LA – for Multiple Sclerosis and Cancer Research. Among that we had other video gamers approaching us and saying, “Hey, I want to get involved with what you are doing!” The chat and buzz online was changing. We went from a group of 6 people to a volunteer staff of 25 year round and with over 150-200 volunteers at our virtual fundraising events. Volunteerism growing online! At the end of the day- I didn’t care if we were fundraising millions of dollars – we were changing the way players (people) were interacting with eachother online. We started to notice others standing up against negativity. Guild Wars and now Guild Wars 2 were 2 online communities that began to have a reputation of being positive place to video game. These communities were also setting precedence for other online gaming communities.
Over the past 4 years we have embraced everything from 24 hour video gaming marathons to watching a young man with Muscular dystrophy video game with a pencil in his mouth to raise money for his own disease to the simple act of a 9 year old wanting to donate his allowance to a good cause he saw in a video game. It definitely has changed my life and continues to change my life and now my student’s lives.
Next week I will talk to you about how my students are involved. How digital citizenship definitely is something we can model in many ways. How we often don’t even realize that is what we are doing until we enter courses like this and think to ourselves – “Hey, I am modeling how to be a good citizen! WOOT!”
My story hasn’t ended with Gamer’s Giving Back and it is still evolving day to day. Before I end this post here are some great gaming related charity events that are coming up you should check out ( Go ahead, share them with your students – I do :) )
- A Guild Wars 2 Community Guild called ENVY Teams up to livestream for St. Jude:
- Mario Marathon – a great group that players Super Mario Brother’s Games for Child’s Play – a gamer related charity that donates video games and toys to kids in hospitals :
- and this weekend, A Flight Simulating Game that travels across the Globe for Charity as well! Check it out here:
Well – that is all for now! Enjoy your week and make a difference.